Princeton Weekly Bulletin April 12, 1999

"Jews, Germany and the Future of Memory"

Scholars, authors, architects, cultural critics, museum curators and public figures will gather at the Woodrow Wilson School on April 15 through 18 for a conference.

Entitled "Jews, Germany and the Future of Memory," it focuses not on the historical aspects of the Holocaust but on the memory of the event, which, more than half a century afterwards, remains an active force in shaping the cultural, emotional and political perceptions of present generations, both in Germany and in the United States.

"One has only to look at the recent Academy Awards and the Berlin Film Festival, where films on the Holocaust took top honors, to realize how much the traumas of the past continue to attract broad public attention, in new and controversial ways," says Froma Zeitlin, one of the chief organizers of the conference. Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature, Zeitlin is also director of the Program in Jewish Studies.

The conference will consider the complex ways in which remembrance is conveyed through memorials, monuments and museums. It will assess the impact of films and other media on the public imagination.

New debates in Germany

The conference, which begins shortly after Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah) on April 13, also comes in the midst of new debates in Germany about how to remember the event. A Jewish Museum recently opened in Berlin, and a memorial to the Jews of Europe is to be built in united Germany's new capital. These projects have generated heated discussion on every aspect, from their architecture to the artifacts they display. A central question of those debates--how Germany can heal the wounds of its past without weakening its memory of the Holocaust--is one of the issues that will be addressed at the Princeton conference. Another and related topic is the status of Jewish life in Germany today.

"Germans have contended with problems of guilt, responsibility and memory ever since the end of the war," notes Anson Rabinbach, professor of history. "But with the end of a divided Germany, the question of memory has taken on new meaning. Recent controversies there suggest that the vicissitudes of remembering inevitably take place in the context of a constantly shifting dialogue between the present and the past. This conference will address the future of that dialogue."

The conference has been organized by the Program in Jewish Studies under the auspices of the Ronald O. Perelman Institute, in cosponsorship with the Federal Republic of Germany, NJ Commission on Holocaust Education and American Jewish Committee.

For events, see Weekly Calendar page 5. For more information, see or e-mail Joan Rivitz at or Marcie Citron at mcitron@